Veteran California municipal advisor Thomas Johnsen has died

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Thomas Johnsen, 67, a retired California municipal advisor and former National Association of Municipal Advisors board member, died Tuesday.

Johnsen had battled cancer off and on for 10 years, but succumbed to sepsis, an infection that attacks the immune system.

He retired in 2018 after nearly 31 years with Irvine-based Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates.

He served on the NAMA board for seven years after the 2008 crash helping to guide the group through changes wrought by the Dodd-Frank legislation.

Thomas Johnsen retired from Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates in 2018.

Johnsen was a kind person with a gentle sense of humor, who came across as someone who genuinely liked other people, making a point to remember their personal stories, Fieldman, Rolapp CEO Adam Bauer said in an interview.

He was “an extremely nice, caring person. He always had time to listen,” Bauer said.

“He had a great sense of humor, but it was never at someone else’s expense, more poking fun at the irony of some situation,” Bauer said.

Johnsen for two years chaired the Committee on Assessments, Special Taxes and Other Financings, an industry group focused on the land-based public financing field in California.

“While Tom’s family was far and away the most important thing to him, he loved the people he worked with. He loved the land secured community,” Bauer wrote in an email to CASTOFF members. “If it were up to Tom, we would have held the CASTOFF meeting monthly, maybe even weekly. This would have allowed for a deeper dive into the details of value to lien ratios or the latest and greatest in disclosure but, most importantly, he would have had more time with all of you.”

The organization is comprised of approximately 200 bond counsels, bankers, special tax consultants, municipal advisors and other professionals involved in land-secured bond issues.

Johnsen's wife Claudia and daughter Kiera were always a priority to him and while working he would take two- or three-week vacations to spend time with them, Bauer said.

He graduated with a master’s of science from the College of Forestry and Natural Resources at Colorado State University in 1980 after earning a bachelor’s in economics from the same university.

Prior to accepting the position at Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates in the 1990s, he had worked as an underwriter. But Bauer said he had a variety of jobs, including working as an instructor for blind skiers and as a stand-up comedian.

“I think he was always trying to challenge himself intellectually by trying new things,” Bauer said.

He was known as a stickler for details and nothing he ever created for clients was boilerplate, Bauer said. Whatever he created for clients was always original and tailor-made, he said.

He “led the charge on disclosure and applying best practices for clients early on,” Bauer said.

“I met him the early 90’s when I was at Moody’s Investors Service and we remained friendly,” said David Brodsly, managing director at KNN Public Finance. “Tom was a real mensch, sincerely warm, sincerely caring, deeply engaged, I was sad to see him retire. I’m much sadder now.”

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Obituaries California Municipal advisors